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Buffalo dad posthumously honored for heroic acts

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Posted at 6:01 PM, Dec 19, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-19 18:01:41-05

Days like today are good days for Tempest Thomas. “I'm honored to have this award to give to his sons and let his sons know how he died and how to remember their dad with good thought,” Thomas said. 

Thomas's fiancé, Demetrius Johnson is one of 20 being awarded the Carnegie Medal. The Carnegie Medal is given throughout the United States and Canada to those who risk their lives to an extraordinary degree while saving or attempting to save the lives of others. Each year, the Commission receives roughly 1,000 nominations, and selects up to 100. The heroes announced Tuesday bring the number of awards to 77 in 2017 and to 9,991 the total number since the Pittsburgh based Fund's inception in 1904. 

Demetrius died trying to save his son, Demetrius Jr. from their burning home on Humber Avenue in February 2016. “There's not a day I don't miss him. It's a hurtful thing to go through. It's a hurtful situation. It was a night I'll never forget. As long as I live I'll never forget that night,” Thomas said.

Thomas's 8-year-old daughter, Treasure also died from her injuries. Thomas said she still visits the lot where the fire happened. She'll often leave a stuffed animal for both Treasure and Demetrius. “Is it easy to go there? No. Sometimes I try to avoid the street because there's a lot of heartbreak there.”

Thomas said the award is giving her family something to celebrate this holiday season. She's still not sure how he got nominated. “Whoever did it was special to think of Demetrius by hearing his story. I was lost and whoever did that I thank them and I appreciate them for what they have done.”

But what about Demetrius? What would he think of the recognition? “He'd be honored if he was here. He'd be speechless. It would be something to brag about for years if he was here,” she said. Which is exactly what Thomas said she intends to do so that her children know their dad died a hero.

Commission Chair Mark Laskow said each of the awardees or their survivors will also receive a financial grant.  In Johnson’s case, we’re told his son will receive $5,000.